The Lowdown on E-Cigs: Are They Really Better for You?

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Kylie Jenner recently showcased a Snapchat video of her smoking an e-cigarette in the front seat of a friend’s car. The 18-year-old reality star, who was recently crowned the most-viewed person on Snapchat, was flaunting her talents at blowing O-rings and unfortunately, this image instantly reached millions of young people who follow her.

The business of e-cigarettes is a booming, billion-dollar industry, and it’s poised to outsell tobacco products within a decade. A new Reuters poll revealed that e-cigarette usage among Americans has surged over the past year, including the alarming fact that e-cigs have reached an all-time high among middle and high school students, peaking at two million teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once billed as a great tool to help smokers quit and much less harmful than actual cigarettes, more and more questions are now being raised about the safely of e-cigarettes and their effect on our bodies.

What are e-Cigs?

E-cigarettes are known collectively as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and, according to the FDA, they allow users to inhale aerosol (vapor) containing nicotine and other substances. They are battery-operated and use a heating element to heat e-liquid from a refillable cartridge, releasing the chemical-filled aerosol. Almost 70 percent of current users started in the last year alone, and about three quarters of them also smoke cigarettes in conjunction with e-cigs.

Why the controversy?

There is no government regulation of e-cigs, meaning nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors are on the market currently, all without any FDA evaluation determining what exactly is in them. Therefore, there’s really no way for anyone to know what chemicals they’re ingesting or how it might affect their health in the short or long term.

Despite the many question marks surrounding e-cigs, initial studies do show that these devices contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals including carcinogens and formaldehyde. Besides the obvious cancer-causing risk of these dangerous ingredients, it should also be noted that nicotine has negative health impacts on fetal development, adolescent brain development, and it’s believed to contribute to premature birth and low birth weight.

What’s even more alarming is the rise of e-cig users in young people today. According to the CDC, e-cigarette use among high school and middle school students tripled in one year. This is due to the tobacco industry aggressively targeting kids and marketing to youth, glamorizing e-cig usage and offering them in alluring flavors like bubble gum and gummy bears. At this rate, kids today are poised to become the next generation hooked on nicotine.

"We want parents to know that nicotine is dangerous for kids at any age, whether it's an e-cigarette, hookah, cigarette or cigar," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden says. “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction and lead to sustained tobacco use."

Can e-cigs really help someone quit smoking?

Although they are specifically marketed as a device to help smokers quit, the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has not approved any e-cigs as a safe or effective method to do so. Furthermore, it’s been reported that a lot of e-cig users still continue to use conventional cigarettes simultaneously.

Until the FDA approves an e-cigarette as a safe and effective way to wean nicotine users off of tobacco, the Lung Association will not support any implied claims that they in fact help smokers kick the nasty habit. They suggest talking with a doctor or calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW about one of the seven FDA-approved medications proven to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.

How safe are e-cigs?

Are e-cigarettes safer than tobacco? Or are they just a high-tech, glamorized way to get a whole new generation addicted to nicotine?


The short answer: nobody really knows yet.

Despite being on the market for several years, doctors and researchers still have so many questions surrounding e-cigarettes. They do not support them. The American Lung Association is mainly concerned about e-cigs becoming a gateway to regular cigarettes, making them ultimately causing more harm than good.